A distressed mare and foal and group of underweight stallions were among 13 donkeys saved from terrible living conditions and extreme weather from an owner who could no longer cope with them - in a dramatic rescue in Cornwall by international animal welfare charity The Donkey Sanctuary.
‘Spice’ was living in a dilapidated exposed barn crammed in alongside six other mares and a foal, seeking scant shelter from atrocious weather and waterlogged fields outside.
She was malnourished and had raw patches on her skin which attracted attacks by crows.
Besides her five stallions were packed into another flimsy shed. Some were suffering from rain scald and long feet. Together with the weather and the poor stabling the donkeys’ condition was critical.
What began as a routine welfare visit from The Donkey Sanctuary soon escalated into an urgent situation with fears for the donkeys’ safety as the region faced further storms. “When the RSPCA officer and I saw the conditions of the stallions we looked at each other and said, this can’t go on,” recalled The Donkey Sanctuary’s Welfare Officer.
“Kept there any longer and they could have died,” said another team member.
The rescue took place at the climax of the recent violent storms which hit Cornwall.
The Donkey Sanctuary Welfare Officer said: “It was a pretty bad situation. Spice and the other mares were distressed, underweight, frightened and cold. The condition of some of the stallions was very concerning. None of them had enough shelter. Some of them had rain scald. We didn’t know how much food they were getting or how often, we couldn’t tell exactly how bad they were, the weather was getting worse and worse and we really couldn’t leave the donkeys in that situation any longer.”
In less than 24 hours The Donkey Sanctuary pulled together an entire crew of vets, handlers and lorry drivers to speed the donkeys to safety.
The team battled torrential rain and gales to contain the frightened herd and to whisk them away. Taking a gate off its hinges to make a temporary pen and holding it in place for hours until transport arrived in conditions like “Noah’s Ark” was worth it to see the donkeys removed to safety, said The Donkey Sanctuary’s Welfare Officer.
She said: “It was just a huge success and a relief to see them removed to safety. That’s the best outcome.”
The donkey owners’ personal circumstances had changed so dramatically that she could no longer cope with her pets. Given that The Donkey Sanctuary was able to take them out of immediate risk the owner voluntarily relinquished them and no further action was taken by the RSPCA, who were also called to the site.
Wherever possible The Donkey Sanctuary’s Welfare Officers support donkey owners to keep their animals at home. Rescue is a last resort.
Staff at The Donkey Sanctuary now face the challenging task of nursing Spice and the others back to health. Many are underweight and nervous with dental and hoof problems as a result of poor care.